Charlene Leimomi Irvine crowned 90th Lei Queen

Mayor Kirk Caldwell crowned Charlene Leimomi Irvine as the 2018 Lei Queen following the 90th Lei Court Selection held at Kapolei Hale on Saturday. For her court, she will be joined by First Princess Helen Mealoha Yuk Jun Kuoha-Torco and Princess Sharon Rose Marie Au-Curtis.

(Left to right) First Princess Helen Mealoha Yuk Jun Kuoha-Torco, Lei Queen Charlene Leimomi Irvine, Princess Sharon Rose Marie Au-Curtis, and Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Courtesy: City & County of Honolulu

Charlene Leimomi Irvine was first introduced to hula when she was four years old, with her formal lessons and lei making instruction beginning when she was 11. A retired medical transcriptionist for the Queen’s Medical Center, she is the proud parent of four children and continues her passion for hula to this day as a haumana for Na Kupuna O’ Ko’olau under the direction of Kumu James and Michael Dela Cruz.

Helen Mealoha Yuk Jun Kuoha-Torco is a native of Kalihi and a graduate of Governor Wallace Rider Farrington High School. I’m proud to say she is a relative of mine – she married into our family. 

After completing her Doctorate Degree at Nova Southeastern University, she began working as a professor at Windward Community College. She held that position for 30 years until retiring to become a substitute teacher at Farrington High, a position she has held for 20 years.

Helen’s hula skills were honed at a young age. She is the Tahitian dancer featured on the credits opening of the original Hawaii Five-0 with Jack Lord and also worked as a hula dancer for various establishments around Waikīkī.

Yes! Those Hawaii 5-O hips!

She is married to Alfredo Torco and has six children, four stepsons, 30 grandchildren, and one great grandson. She began making lei in 1969 to adorn horses and pa’u riders. Her specialty these days is making patched quilts.

Sharon Rose Marie Au-Curtis is a Waimānalo native and graduate of Windward Community College. She has been making lei and dancing hula since she was a small keiki, and has fond memories of attending the Lei Day Celebration and sharing her handmade lei and aloha during the festivities.

A wife of 30 years to Tommy, she is the proud parent of her daughter, Cyan. She spends her time assisting the Daughters of Hawai’i in fundraising efforts, lobbying for lupus research funding, as a haumana with Halau Na Pua Hala Kunou i ke Kai, and continuing her passion for arts and crafts.

Congratulations, all!

This year’s competition, Nā Kūpuna, featured ladies 61 years of age and older. Each contestant was scored on the following skills performed onsite: one-hour lei making, the English and Hawaiian languages, modern hula, and poise/personality.

Lei Queen Charlene and her court will make their official debut at the 91st Annual Lei Day Celebration festivities, and will be the city’s Ambassadors of Aloha at a variety of public events.

The Lei Day Celebration will be held on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at Kapi‘olani Park from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The theme for the celebration is Lei ‘Alohi Kea (the brilliant white lei, the platinum of kūpuna).

Along with Hawaiian entertainment, demonstrations and exhibits, the celebration event will feature a lei contest exhibit showcasing some of the most exquisitely crafted lei in a variety of colors and methods.

Information about the 91st Annual Lei Day Celebration, the three lei contests judged at the event, and free lei making workshops are now available at

These events are made possible thanks to donations from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Hula Grill Waikīkī, Handcrafters and Artisans Alliance, Friends of Honolulu Parks and Recreation, as well as partnerships with KFVE, Summit Media, Hawaiian Music Live, and Salon 808.

The first Lei Day was celebrated on May 1, 1927 with a few people wearing lei in downtown Honolulu. Over time, more and more people began to wear lei on May 1, and thus began the tradition of “May Day is Lei Day in Hawai‘i.” The first Lei Queen, Miss Nina Bowman, was crowned by Honolulu Mayor Charles Arnold in 1928.

Author(s) on this Post

Diane Ako

Peace of mind By Diane Ako I like to reflect on life. Sometimes it’s philosophically. Sometimes it’s humorously. For all its beauty, life is far too difficult a journey to take alone. You need the support and connection with others to help carry you along the way. Writing brings me that connection– within and without. It clarifies my thoughts and feelings. It helps me reach out to others for advice, wisdom, or feedback. Your thoughts become your actions. Your actions become you. A wise yogi- Patanjali- said, “Speak what is true. Speak what is pleasant.” Let’s speak of things pleasant to one another and seek some peace of mind along the way. ABOUT Diane Ako joined Hawaii: In Real Life in October 2016. She likes being part of a community of local bloggers – people who like writing and sharing, like she does. Ako is an anchor/ reporter at Island News (KITV4 – ABC) in Honolulu. She previously anchored and reported at KHON2 (FOX) and KHNL (NBC), and at stations in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. She freelance writes for NMG Network's magazines. In between news jobs, in 2017, she launched and ran her own p.r. company, Diane Ako PR. From 2010-2014, she headed the public relations department at Halekulani Corporation, which oversees luxury resort Halekulani and boutique hotel Waikiki Parc. She’s been blogging since 2009 – before Hawaii: IRL, she wrote for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest daily newspaper, where her stories garnered a dozen journalism awards and an Emmy nomination. Ako has a BA in Communications from Menlo College and an MA in Political Science from University of Hawaii at Manoa. She volunteers as a board member of the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, a Shinto shrine maiden at Daijingyu Temple, a citizen-scientist studying shrimp, and a yoga teacher at a senior center.

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